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THE EARLY PHOENIX

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THE EARLY PHOENIX
A first look at today’s most notable events from the Middle East, selected by ACLS experts

26 April 2023

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IRAN

  1. UN Official Promises to Assist in Easing Iran Sanctions (Tehran Times). Martin Griffiths, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said that the UN relief bodies seek frequent assistance from important member states to offer an exemption through the Security Council and humanitarian operations…He highlighted that the UN bodies are committed to ensuring that sanctions do not prevent people who need humanitarian aid from accessing that kind of assistance. 
  2. Iranian Hackers Gained Access To Election Results Website In 2020: US Military (Iran International). The revelation was made by Major General William Hartman, head of US Cyber Command’s Cyber National Mission Force, who spoke for the first time of the incident, one of the multiple attacks from foreign hackers during the presidential elections…The Major General explained, however, that the Iranian group, known as Pioneer Kitten, was removed from the network before any damage was done to affect voting.
  3. Iran Shipped Ammunition Through the Caspian Sea to Russia (Jerusalem Post). Iran shipped over 300,000 artillery shells and a million rounds of ammunition to Russia across the Caspian Sea in the past six months…Iran has used chiefly cargo flights to ship weapons to Russia, which are nearly impossible for Western countries to stop, and blocking the shipment of weapons in the Caspian Sea would require the agreement of former Soviet republics in the area.
  4. Tehran, Riyadh Officially Begin Boosting Trade Relations: Industry Minister (Tasnim News). With the start of trade activities between Iran and Saudi Arabia, officials at Iran’s Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade have initiated exporting products to Saudi Arabia, the Iranian industry minister said.

ISRAEL

  1. Israel Ushers in 75th Independence Day in Shadow of Political Upheaval (Times of Israel). Israel marked its 75th Independence Day on Tuesday under the pall of societal fissures exposed by the hardline government’s controversial policies, with a national ceremony in Jerusalem and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging unity. At the same time, protesters demonstrated outside the main event, and the coalition’s opponents held a dueling rally in Tel Aviv.
  2. Israel’s Population Almost 10 Million, No Longer a Small Country (Jerusalem Post). This is important because it has been a small Middle Eastern country. It was a country under siege by enemies, surrounded by larger states. 

SYRIA

  1. Syrian Regime Denies Turkiye’s Statement on “Syrian Quartet”: Insists on Preconditions (Enab Baladi). An unnamed source associated with the Syrian regime stated in the local Al-Watan newspaper today, Tuesday, that “the statement released by the Turkish Ministry of Defense discussing concrete steps towards normalizing relations between Turkiye and Syria is not true.” The source clarified that the meeting focused on the mechanism for withdrawing Turkish forces from Syrian territory and did not address any steps toward normalization between the two parties.
  2. Iran Establishes New Militia in Der Ezzor (Syria TV). Iran has established a new armed militia in northeast Syria called the “Imam Ali Brigades.” Fighters were recruited from Iraq in exchange for financial compensation… The militia, led by the so-called Abu Ali al-Karawi, was established at the beginning of last month following the international coalition’s air raids on Al-Mayadeen and Al-Bukamal.

LEBANON

  1.  International Efforts to Ease Tensions Between Lebanese and Displaced Syrians; Municipalities Plan to Evacuate 55,000 (Janoubia). Tensions rise following a statement by Aya Majzoub, Deputy Director of the Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International, who urged Lebanese authorities to halt the illegal deportation of Syrian refugees. She expressed concerns that refugees could face “torture or persecution” from the Syrian government upon their return to the war-torn country. “No refugee should be returned to any place where their life would be in danger,” Majzoub said.
  2.  Exchange of Accusations Between Washington and Moscow Regarding Military Air Activities in Syria (Syria TV). General Matthew MacFarlane, the commander of the Joint Task Force for Operation Inherent Resolve in the International Coalition, stated that the United States “continues to witness unsafe and unprofessional activity by Russian forces in Syria.” However, he referred to “continuous communication across the line of non-conflict” between the two sides… Meanwhile, the head of the Russian Center for Reconciliation, Oleg Gorinov, mentioned that since the beginning of the year, 665 violations had been identified by the International Coalition forces, including 213 breaches in April.

IRAQ

  1.  ISIS Attacks Decreased by 68% in Iraq (Iraqi News). However, last month an Iraqi general said ISIS still had up to 500 active fighters in the country, now based in remote desert and mountain hideouts. A UN report mentioned that ISIS cells operate in rural mountain areas, leveraging the porous Iraqi-Syrian border and retaining maneuverability to evade attacks while trying to rebuild and recover.
  2.  Iraq Completes 100% of Electrical Interconnection with Turkiye (Iraqi News). However, Iraq is waiting to prepare an appropriate pricing list to implement the final operating agreement with Turkiye…The Iraqi Ministry of Electricity spokesperson emphasized that Iraq is serious about the electrical interconnection with neighboring countries and that Iraq is initiating electrical interconnection with the Gulf countries, which will provide the Basra governorate with 500 megawatts.

TURKIYE

  1.  Cavusoglu: Our Forces Will Not Withdraw from Northern Iraq and Syria for Now (Anadolu Agency). In a televised interview on Monday evening, the Turkish Foreign Minister stated, “Our withdrawal from northern Iraq and northern Syria would mean the cessation of our military operations against terrorism and the approach of terrorists to our borders, posing a threat to our national security.” Cavusoglu emphasized, “We do not aspire to annex parts of Syrian lands, and we can only withdraw from northern Syria when security is established and full stability returns to those areas.”
  2.  Iraq’s Northern Oil Exports Show Few Signs of Restarting after Stoppage (Daily Sabah). The KRG and SOMO (Iraq’s state-owned crude marketing company) are eyeing an early May export restart, two sources said, with one adding that this is far from guaranteed. According to a separate industry source, a restart is at least 2-3 weeks away.
  3.  Expected Decrease of $5 Billion in Turkish Central Bank Reserves (SNA Business). Bankers said on Tuesday that the Turkish Central Bank’s total reserves are expected to have decreased by more than five billion dollars to around $116 billion last week due to the increased demand for foreign exchange as the May elections approach.

GULF REGION

  1.  Saudi Arabia Thwarts Smuggling of 12 Million Captagon Pills, Arrests Syrian Involved in Operation (Syria TV). The drugs were concealed in a shipment of pomegranate fruit and entered through the port of Jeddah…The official spokesperson for the General Directorate for Drug Control confirmed the arrest of four drug addicts in Jeddah Governorate: two residents of Egyptian nationality and two residents of Syrian and Yemeni nationalities.
  2.  Oman’s Foreign Minister and Iranian Counterpart Discussed Regional and International Issues (Al Khaleej Online). It was agreed to hold a joint economic committee. Oman has played a constructive role in the talks to lift the embargo. 

SUDAN

  1.  The World Health Organization Warns of a “Significant Biological Threat” in Sudan (Sky News Arabia). “One of the warring parties is occupying a public health laboratory, which poses a very high biological risk,” said the representative of the World Health Organization in Sudan. He pointed out that this facility contains samples that cause measles, cholera, and polio.
  2.  3.7 Million Internal Displaced by Sudan Conflict; Thousands Expected to Flee Abroad (Al Arabiya). UNHCR officials stated at a press conference in Geneva that they are preparing for the departure of 270,000 people across Sudan’s borders. This initial estimate includes Sudanese refugees crossing into South Sudan and Chad and returning those displaced from South Sudan to their homes. 
  3.  Sudan Faces Devastating Losses if War Continues (SNA Business). Moody’s confirmed that if the conflict turns into a long-term civil war, it will destroy social and physical infrastructure, resulting in permanent economic consequences. This will affect the asset quality of regional banks financing Sudan, increase the percentage of non-performing loans, and impact liquidity rates in the country’s banks.
  4.  Former Regime Leader Al Bashir is at the Khartoum Military Hospital (Al Arabiya). The leaders of the former regime leave Kober prison. Al-Arabiya sources: Nafie Ali Nafie, Ali Othman Taha, Awad Al-Jaz, and Ibrahim Al-Senussi are among the leaders of the #Bashir regime that left Kober prison. 

EGYPT

  1.  Russia Eyes New Market Opportunities for Its Companies Through Egypt’s Gateway (Al Arabiya). Russian trade representative in Egypt, Alexei Tivanyan, stated that the Egyptian market is the largest in Africa and the most receptive to importing new products. This offers a unique opportunity for Russian companies to market and promote goods in the markets of African and Middle Eastern countries.

TUNISIA

  1.  Dozens of Migrant Bodies Found in Sfax: Growing Concerns Over Health Consequences (Al Hadath). In recent days, authorities have discovered the bodies of dozens of migrants from Sahel and Sahara countries, most of them decomposed, unidentified, and washed ashore in Sfax. Since the end of last week, the Coast Guard has recovered no fewer than 70 bodies after their boats sank at sea while attempting to reach Europe.

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